In the 1990s animated TV shows were freed from their Saturday morning shackles and allowed to entertain older kids, adults even, leading to a change in industry attitudes toward the medium of animation.
Companies like Disney claimed TV cartoons were just for kids and should be kept "wholesome" so they don't warp young minds, then along came a show called Ren & Stimpy to dispel that myth.
Ren & Stimpy changed the cartoon game by bringing elements of the surreal and utterly bizarre to the mainstream, as well as a renewed appreciation for old timey "noodle limb" style character animation.
As you peruse this collection of 10 of the strangest animated TV shows made in the 1990s you'll definitely notice some similarities to Ren & Stimpy, and lots of shows that are simply one-of-a-kind!
1. Life With Louie (1994-98)-
Louie is just like every other kid on the playground, except for the fact that he basically looks like the little person version of Louie Anderson, complete with the comedian's hairdo and sense of style.
Louie comes off as the child equivalent of Garfield the Cat, and despite the fact that his show may have singlehandedly led to the current obesity crisis (I kid, I kid) it had a lot of fans and lasted four seasons.
Life With Louie was endearing, strangely relatable, and full of delightfully surreal moments, like the time Louie was inspired by his conversation with a cow (skip to 17:30):
2. The Brothers Grunt (1994-95)-
The Brothers Grunt is about five (albino?) humanoids who run around in their underwear, make strange grunting noises and eating cheese while they search for their lost brother.
The Brothers Grunt didn't do so well from a critical standpoint, and didn't last long as a result, but it did help launch the career of Ed, Edd n Eddy creator Danny Antonucci, so it wasn't all bad!
It cannot be overstated how important MTV's Liquid Television was to the future of animated television, leading the way for Adult Swim and other cable networks to air adult animation.
Liquid Television launched the 90s phenom Beavis & Butthead, but those two repugnant teens weren't the only thing Liquid Television had to offer, and those who tuned in were treated to a variety of awesomely adult cartoon shows, such as The Maxx and Aeon Flux.
The Maxx tells the tale of a homeless superhero who spends part of his time in another dimension called the Outback and helps protect a social worker (who is a Jungle Queen in the Outback) from a dimension hopping sicko named Mr. Gone.
Based on the amazing comic book series by Sam Keith, The Maxx faithfully brought the comic's artwork to life like few animated shows ever have.
Aeon Flux is another amazing, and utterly bizarre, Liquid Television cartoon that many animation fans can't imagine living without, filled with themes and subject matter adults will appreciate.
It's equal parts sexy, ultraviolent and incredibly compelling to watch, even if it's hard to follow if you don't watch the episodes in order.
4. Van-Pires (1997-98)-
Four teens who like to hang around in a junkyard are forever changed by a mysterious meteor that gives them the ability to transform into vehicular robots and battle the evil gas sucking Van-Pires.
It was one of the first shows to blend live action and CGI elements, and featured a theme song and soundtrack written and performed by John Entwistle of The Who.
5. The Twisted Tales of Felix The Cat (1995-97)-
The Twisted Tales of Felix The Cat took that old timey aesthetic, and over-the-top weirdness, utilized so effectively by Ren & Stimpy and brought that magical feline Felix back to center stage.
With episodes like "Felix in Psychedelicland," "Jailhouse Shock" and "Surreal Estate," The Twisted Tales of Felix The Cat was sadly overlooked during its first run, but is now a cult classic among those who appreciate surreal, old timey inspired animation.
6. Klutter! (1995-96)-
The Eek!Stravaganza cartoon block brought one little star to life who didn’t smell quite right- Klutter, the anthropomorphic pile of clothes brought to life via static electricity who helps the Heap brothers solve crimes.
7. Action League Now! (1996-2001)-
Action League Now! started out as a segment on Ka-Blam! but got its own half hour show in 2000, thereby bridging across the decade.
It's not technically all animation, and not always stop motion, but Action League Now! had to be included on this list since it's totally strange and clearly an inspiration for Robot Chicken on Adult Swim.
8. Toxic Crusaders (1990-91)-
Troma isn't known for making family friendly films, so creating an afternoon cartoon show based on their most popular character the Toxic Crusader seemed like a strange idea.
But making a cartoon about Toxie and his mutant pals totally made sense when Toxic Crusaders debuted in 1990, because it appealed to both adult fans of Troma movies and kids obsessed with the Ninja Turtles.
9. Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes (1990-91)-
Schlocky B-movies were lining up to be made into animated shows during the 1990s, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes joined Toxie on afternoon TV with some success.
Sadly, the Killer Tomatoes only lasted one season (just like Toxie), but the show (and most especially the toys based on the show) still have a cult following to this day...just like the Toxic Crusaders!
I hope this toon trip back to the 90s has been a blast for all the animation lovers out there, whether you remember watching these shows on the air or you've just been tooned in.